Retained earnings refer to the portion of a company’s profits that are retained or reinvested in the business rather than being distributed to shareholders as dividends. The cost of retained earnings is the opportunity cost of using those earnings for internal investments instead of distributing them to shareholders. In other words, it is the return that shareholders could have earned if they had received those earnings as dividends and invested them elsewhere. In this essay, we will discuss in detail the components, calculation, advantages, and limitations of the cost of retained earnings.
Components of the Cost of Retained Earnings:
The cost of retained earnings is composed of two main components:
- The cost of equity
- The cost of new shares issued to finance the investment
The Cost of equity:
The cost of equity represents the return required by shareholders for investing in the company’s common stock. It is calculated using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) or other alternative models such as the Dividend Discount Model (DDM) or the Earnings Capitalization Model (ECM). The cost of equity is a function of the company’s risk profile, growth prospects, dividend policy, and market conditions. The cost of equity can be affected by factors such as interest rates, inflation, market volatility, and changes in the company’s financial structure.
The Cost of new shares issued to finance the investment:
When a company reinvests its profits, it may require additional funds to finance its internal investments. One way to raise these funds is by issuing new shares of common stock. The cost of these new shares is the cost of equity for the investors who purchase them. The cost of new shares is higher than the cost of retained earnings because it requires the company to offer a return to the investors who purchase the new shares.
Calculation of the Cost of Retained Earnings:
The calculation of the cost of retained earnings is similar to the calculation of the cost of equity. The following steps can be used to calculate the cost of retained earnings:
Step 1: Calculate the cost of equity using the CAPM or other models.
Step 2: Determine the proportion of retained earnings in the total capital structure of the company. This can be done by dividing the amount of retained earnings by the total capitalization of the company (i.e., the sum of debt and equity).
Step 3: Multiply the proportion of retained earnings by the cost of equity calculated in Step 1 to obtain the cost of retained earnings.
Advantages of Retained Earnings:
- Lower cost of capital: Retained earnings do not require the payment of dividends or interest, which can reduce the cost of capital for the company.
- Greater flexibility: Retained earnings give the company greater flexibility in managing its finances. It allows the company to reinvest profits in internal projects or acquisitions, rather than relying on external sources of capital.
- No dilution of ownership: Retained earnings do not dilute the ownership of existing shareholders, as would occur if the company issued new shares of stock.
- Tax advantages: Retained earnings may provide tax advantages to the company, as dividends are taxed at a higher rate than retained earnings.
Limitations of Retained Earnings:
- Opportunity cost: The cost of retained earnings is the opportunity cost of not distributing those earnings to shareholders. Shareholders may have alternative investment opportunities that could provide a higher return than the company’s internal investments.
- Misallocation of resources: Retained earnings may be used to fund internal investments that are not profitable or do not align with the company’s strategic objectives. This can result in a misallocation of resources and a lower return on investment.
- Limited availability: Retained earnings are limited by the amount of profits generated by the company. This may limit the company’s ability to finance its growth or pursue new opportunities.
- Shareholder dissatisfaction: Shareholders may become dissatisfied if the company retains too much of its earnings and does not distribute enough dividends. This can lead to a decline in share price and a loss of investor confidence.